Getting ready for baby: Don’t forget about your mental health!

Quebec has been experiencing a mini baby boom since 2005, the greatest increase registering in mothers aged 25-39 years[1]. In most cases, it is a first pregnancy and birth.

Now more than ever, parents have access to a host of resources to help them through the pregnancy and prepare for their newborn’s arrival. In addition to prenatal care and classes, the Internet and social networks provide future parents with unprecedented support in terms of information and knowledge sharing about the highs and lows of pregnancy and motherhood. Expectant mothers can physically prepare for the birth and gain nutrition advice from instructors during prenatal activities such as yoga or aquafitness. Discussion usually revolves around the most common pregnancy symptoms (nausea, swollen legs, back pain) or problems encountered in childbirth and breastfeeding. Unfortunately, little is said about the risk of developing depressive symptoms such as postpartum depression (after childbirth), and even less is said about prenatal depression (during pregnancy). Depressive symptoms nevertheless affect 75% of new mothers, with major depression affecting a smaller percentage.

Despite the availability of resources for future parents, some have limited access to these such as young expectant mothers, recent immigrants, women in precarious financial situations, single women, and women who live in a violent or unstable environment. They are often so preoccupied by their personal problems that nutritional needs, healthy lifestyle habits, and well-being are neglected. These women are often vulnerable and at higher risk of developing mental health problems during and after pregnancy.

The consequences can be devastating: the mother’s well-being and the mother-child bond are threatened, which could affect the family life of new parents. In addition, depression increases the mother’s risk of having depressive episodes in subsequent pregnancies.

Knowing how significant mental health is during pregnancy, and in the months following childbirth, how can we better inform parents on this subject?

[1] Girard, C. (2010). Les naissances au Québec en 2009 : plus de bébés, même fécondité. Coup d’œil sociodémographique, 3, 1-4.


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